Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Following In a Famous Author's Footsteps

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist in history, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. She is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime.

At least that is what her official website says, which proves self-promotion is the best kind. However as she died in the late seventies, when author websites were unheard of, someone else must be promoting her these days. I mention this author for two reasons, the first being that she died today, January 12th 1978, and the second is that I have recently changed writing genres to the one which makes Ms Christie so popular. 

Not that I have abandoned the 17th Century. I love the era, and many Historical Fiction readers love it too, but it's a niche market, so while my next novel, a prequel in the Woulfe's of Loxsbeare series. is boiling away on the hard drive, I have turned to historical cosy mystery writing.

Ms Christie says in her autobiography that: Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop...suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.

A sentiment I, and I’m sure every author I have ever met shares. That’s how we work. Inspiration rarely comes from sitting at a desk in front of a laptop with a mug of coffee beside us. Well, the coffee helps, lots of it, as it’s essential to thought processes - but the best ideas tend to jump out at us in the course of our everyday lives.

I get my ideas from people watching, the way people dress which illustrates whether they are extrovert in bold colours and outrageous trends, or the shy and quiet personalities who try and melt into the background. Their facial expressions when they are nervous, annoyed etc. ‘Stop staring, Mum’ is a complaint I often hear from my offspring.

Like Agatha Christie, I had no ambition to become a writer either, it just happened.My first book was an exercise I began to see if I was capable of writing a novel, I had no actual plan to get it published. I didn’t know how at the time how – or if I could.

My book evolved with the advice and practical help of my critique group and a mentor who encouraged me to submit the manuscript. I always believed that was it, I was a one trick pony and I couldn’t possibly go through all that research, angst, editing and searching to find the right phrase or expression again. It was too exhausting. However when the book came out, my first instinct was to start another, and now it’s part of my life and I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.Sometimes I wonder if it's worth so much of my time and attention, then I see a mis-matched couple in a restaurant and I'm off creating scenarios again.

Ms Christie’s second book The Secret Adversary began with a woman with an unusual name being discussed by a couple of ladies in a tea shop. I haven't use that particular plot device in my current wip, but a tea shop scene is right in there with the flower patterned china, tiny delicate pastries and the smell of brewed English breakfast tea - all I need now is a story to go with it. But if I keep my eyes open and wait, I’m sure it will leap out at me before long.